The Movie Guru: Short animated films offer streaming magic
When it comes to animated films, the best things sometimes come in the smallest packages.
Animated short films allow seasoned animators to experiment with different stories and designs, as well as giving newer animators the chance to get their work out there. Several of the best ones are available through various streaming platforms, either individually or as part of short film collections. Though some detailed searches can find you all kinds of unexpected treasures, here are some great titles to get started.
This award-winning short film manages to be heartbreaking, tender and beautiful all at once. “Canvas” tells the story of an artist who loses his muse after his wife dies. It takes the patient, loving attention of his granddaughter and a little bit of artistic magic from his dearly departed wife to help him find his way back to the canvas once again. Both the 2-D and 3-D animation is gorgeous, and though there’s no dialogue the excellent soundtrack helps make everything they’re feeling totally clear.
‘Hair Love’ (free on Youtube)
Not only did this one win an Oscar, but Sony Pictures Animation has made it available for free on YouTube. The story of a father trying to style his daughter’s hair in preparation for an important event, it manages to be both hilarious and heartwarming at the same moment. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you need a mood boost this should definitely be on your watch list.
Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection (Netflix)
Though it says Disney in the title, this one is actually available only on Netflix at the moment. First released in 2015, this collection includes both some well-known titles (“Tangled Ever After,” “Frozen Fever”) and some lesser-known works (the 2004 Oscar-winning short “Lorenzo,” not released anywhere else). The fact that the shorts are packaged together as a single movie makes it harder to skip the ones you don’t like as well (I always avoid “The Little Match Girl,” no matter which studio is animating it) but the explanatory bits give you plenty of cushion not to miss anything. Besides, a little bother is worth getting to the collection’s “Paperman” and “Feast,” two of the best shorts Disney has ever made.
‘Short Circuit’ short film series (Disney+)
These short films actually are on Disney+, but you won’t be familiar with any of them. All of the shorts in this series are brand-new, and though they’re mostly on the short side there’s plenty of magic to be found. The purpose of the shorts vary, with some focusing on the beauty of the animation itself while others want to tell stories that either make you laugh or tug at your heartstrings. It’s worth trying all of them (my favorite is “Puddles”), but they’re offered individually so you can easily skip any of them that don’t interest you.
‘Kitbull’ (Disney+, free on Youtube)
This is part of Pixar’s “Sparkshorts” series, which is unfortunately not grouped together the way the “Short Circuit” series is. Still, “Kitbull” is definitely worth hunting down by itself. A story of a tiny cat and the trapped pitbull it befriends, the short manages to tug on the heartstrings as expertly as any classic Disney movie you could name. The animation style is unique, but it adds to the sense of two scrappy characters who only have each other. Though the short is available on Disney+, Pixar has also made it available for free on YouTube.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.